900 Grayson Restaurant
900 Grayson Street
Berkeley CA 94710
The boy and I found this great little gem of a cafe on a Saturday when we didn’t feel like Hidden City or Chester’s [Bayview Cafe]. Strange, I know… but we had been to one or the other for five weekends in a row.
I’m happy to report that 900 Grayson didn’t disappoint! (Okay, not even close to disappointing). He ordered the Grayson Burger (since rated the best in the Bay Area) and I had the Chopped Cobb and a side of hash browns.
The burger came topped with Nueske bacon, white cheddar, shoestring onions and 900 Grayson’s own house-made barbecue sause. The patty itself was perfectly seared on the outside and juicy-but-not-bloody in the center. And of course it came nestled against a crisp tangle of herbed french fries.
The chopped cobb was great too, served with the same delicious bacon (crumbled this time), poached chicken breast (from Fulton Valley Farms near Santa Rosa) ripe avocado, hard-boiled egg, cucumber and blue cheese vinaigrette. I asked them to hold the olives because I didn’t want my deep-seated hatred of them to taint an otherwise decent-sounding salad.
I hate olives but enjoy good olive oil. Don’t try and make sense of it; there’s really none to be had.
I think their choice of a vinaigrette over more common (at least in my experience) mayo-based blue cheese dressing was a good one; it was refreshing but still creamy from the chunks of cheese suspended in the emulsion.
I also enjoyed their hash browns, which I salted a little more with the flakes of kosher salt they provided in our table’s salt cellar. Unfortunately, my clumsiness would probably have been better contained with a shaker than a tiny open bowl, but they didn’t seem to mind that my elbows sent white crystals flying every 10 minutes.
So that meal was about 6 months ago. Fast forward to this month: I found myself driving down University, hungry but not knowing where to eat. I definitely wanted something artery-clogging, but I didn’t feel like braving the traffic to, and the lines at, In N Out in Pinole. I also wanted shelter from the rain, so Bay Street in Emeryville was out.
Just before I hit the freeway, I remembered brunch at 900 Grayson and figured they must have a weekday lunch (being across the street from the Bayer (think aspirin) Corporation and all…
So I made a left turn and I knew I was meant to come when a parking space opened up right next to the cafe. If living in this city has taught me anything, it’s that when the Berkeley parking gods smile on you, you gotta move fast! … or the asshole (can I say asshole on this, Anh?) in the Prius behind you will jock your space.
So I walked in, ordered the Demon Lover and opened up my laptop to go over some notes, but before I even got to the second page, this beautiful beast of a meal arrived:
The “Demon Lover” is a big buttermilk waffle topped with pieces of boneless, skinless fried chicken (Fulton Valley, again) and some delicious, scrape-your-plate-for-it cream gravy.
It basically tasted as good as it looked and sounded. If I have any complaints about it, it’s that the batter is more of a “fluffy” coating (perhaps a liquid made foamy with baking soda or baking powder?) than a flaky one. That, combined with the skinless surface of the chicken makes it susceptible to falling off the meat in clumps rather than sticking on and shattering in your mouth. Next time I may come later in the day (I came at opening, so maybe the fryer just wasn’t as hot as usual) and/or ask that the chicken be fried extra dark.
Snobbery and nit-picking aside, I would come back and order this (and everything else I’ve tried) again.. but maybe after I try the braised beef papardelle (they were out when I went).
Other things to note: I had a mini mental freak-out because I thought the waiter had changed clothes between pouring my water and handing me the Demon Lover… turns out he and his twin brother both work here (and possibly own it?). I told myself that the double-take I did probably happens 15x/day to them… Don’t rain on my excuse.
Like many Berkeley restaurants, 900 Grayson has “cute” names for their dishes as well as lot of vegetarian/vegan options. You can even have the dish I ordered with fried Seitan (meaty-textured wheat gluten) instead of chicken… thus making it a Seitan Lover. My carnivorous and Catholic soul cringes at the thought of ordering that… but to each her own.
It’s in the industrial (west) side of Berkeley, and not all the streets are perfectly paved (which streets in Berkeley are?) so you might want to leave the 911 Carrera 4S at home and take the daddy wagon instead… unless you like gravel pinging against the undercarriage of your car. I don’t.